The True Costs of Empire

Picking Up a $170 Billion Tab

How US Taxpayers Are Paying the Pentagon to Occupy the Planet

by David Vine

TomDispatch (December 11 2012)

“Are you monitoring the construction?” asked the middle-aged man on a bike accompanied by his dog.

“Ah, sì”, I replied in my barely passable Italian.

“Bene”, he answered. Good.

In front of us, a backhoe’s guttural engine whined into action and empty dump trucks rattled along a dirt track. The shouts of men vied for attention with the metallic whirring of drills and saws ringing in the distance. Nineteen immense cranes spread across the landscape, with the foothills of Italy’s Southern Alps in the background. More than 100 pieces of earthmoving equipment, 250 workers, and grids of scaffolding wrapped around what soon would be 34 new buildings.

We were standing in front of a massive 145-acre construction site for a “little America” rising in Vicenza {1}, an architecturally renowned Italian city and UNESCO world heritage site near Venice. This was Dal Molin {2}, the new military base the US Army has been readying for the relocation of as many as 2,000 soldiers from Germany in 2013.

Since 1955, Vicenza has also been home to another major US base, Camp Ederle {3}. They’re among the more than 1,000 {4} bases the United States uses to ring the globe (with about 4,000 more {5} in the fifty states and Washington DC). This complex of military installations, unprecedented in history, has been a major, if little noticed, aspect of US power since World War Two.

During the Cold War, such bases became the foundation for a “forward strategy” meant to surround the Soviet Union and push US military power as close to its borders as possible. These days, despite the absence of a superpower rival, the Pentagon has been intent on dotting the globe with scores of relatively small “lily pad” bases {6}, while continuing to build and maintain some large bases like Dal Molin.

Americans rarely think about these bases, let alone how much of their tax money – and debt – is going to build and maintain them. For Dal Molin and related construction nearby, including a brigade headquarters, two sets of barracks, a natural-gas-powered energy plant, a hospital, two schools, a fitness center, dining facilities, and a mini-mall, taxpayers are likely to shell out at least half a billion dollars. (All the while, a majority {7} of locals passionately and vocally oppose {8} the new base.)

How much does the United States spend each year occupying the planet with its bases and troops? How much does it spend on its global presence? Forced by Congress to account for its spending overseas, the Pentagon has put that figure at $22.1 billion a year. It turns out that even a conservative estimate of the true costs of garrisoning the globe comes to an annual total of about $170 billion. In fact, it may be considerably higher. Since the onset of “the Global War on Terror” in 2001, the total cost for our garrisoning policies, for our presence abroad, has probably reached $1.8 trillion to $2.1 trillion.

How Much Do We Spend?

By law {9}, the Pentagon must produce an annual Overseas Cost Summary (“OCS” {10}) putting a price on the military’s activities abroad, from bases to embassies and beyond. This means calculating all the costs of military construction {11}, regular facility repairs, and maintenance, plus the costs of maintaining one million {12} US military and Defense Department personnel and their families abroad – the pay checks, housing, schools, vehicles, equipment, and the transportation of personnel and materials overseas and back, and far, far more.

The latest OCS, for the 2012 fiscal year ending September 30th, documented $22.1 billion in spending, although, at Congress’s direction, this doesn’t include any of the more than $118 billion {13} spent that year on the wars in Afghanistan and elsewhere around the globe.

While $22.1 billion is a considerable sum, representing about as much as the budgets {14} for the Departments of Justice and Agriculture and about half the State Department’s 2012 budget, it contrasts sharply with economist Anita Dancs’s estimate of $250 billion {15}. She included war spending in her total, but even without it, her figure comes to around $140 billion – still $120 billion more than the Pentagon suggests.

Wanting to figure out the real costs of garrisoning the planet myself, for more than three years, as part of a global investigation of bases abroad, I’ve talked to budget experts, current and former Pentagon officials, and base budget officers. Many politely suggested that this was a fool’s errand given the number of bases involved, the complexity of distinguishing overseas from domestic spending, the secrecy of Pentagon budgets, and the “frequently fictional” {16} nature of Pentagon figures. (The Department of Defense remains the only federal agency {17} unable to pass a financial audit {18}.)

Ever the fool and armed only with the power of searchable PDFs, I nonetheless plunged into the bizarro world of Pentagon accounting, where ledgers are sometimes still handwritten {19} and $1 billion can be a rounding error. I reviewed thousands of pages of budget documents, government and independent reports, and hundreds of line items for everything from shopping malls to military intelligence to postal subsidies.

Wanting to err on the conservative side, I decided to follow the methodology {20} Congress mandated for the OCS, while also looking for overseas costs the Pentagon or Congress might have ignored. It hardly made sense to exclude, for example, the health-care costs the Department of Defense pays for troops on overseas bases, spending for personnel in Kosovo, or the price tag for supporting the 550 bases {21} we have in Afghanistan.

In the spirit of “monitoring the construction”, let me lead you on an abbreviated account of my quest to come up with the real costs of occupying planet Earth.

Missing Costs

Although the Overseas Cost Summary initially might seem quite thorough, you’ll soon notice that countries well known to host US bases have gone missing-in-action. In fact, at least eighteen countries and foreign territories on the Pentagon’s own list of overseas bases go unnamed.

Particularly surprising is the absence of Kosovo and Bosnia. The military has had large bases and hundreds of troops there for more than a decade, with another Pentagon report {22} showing 2012 costs of $313.8 million. According to that report, the OCS also understates costs for bases in Honduras and Guantanamo Bay by about a third or $85 million.

And then other oddities appear: in places like Australia and Qatar, the Pentagon says it has funds to pay troops but no money for “operations and maintenance” to turn the lights on, feed people, or do regular repairs. Adjusting for these costs adds an estimated $36 million. As a start, I found:

$436 million for missing countries and costs.

That’s not much compared to $22 billion and chump change in the context of the whole Pentagon budget, but it’s just a beginning.

At Congress’s direction, the Pentagon also omits the costs of bases in the oft-forgotten US territories {23} – Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, the Northern Mariana Islands, and the US Virgin Islands. This is strange because the Pentagon considers them “overseas”. More important, as economist Dancs says, “The United States retains territories … primarily for the purposes of the military and projecting military power”. Plus, they are, well, literally overseas.

Conservatively, this adds $3 billion in total military spending to the OCS.

However, there are more quasi-US territories in the form of truly forgotten Pacific Ocean island nations in “compacts of free association” with the United States – the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, and Palau. Ever since it controlled these islands as “strategic trust territories” after World War Two, the US has enjoyed the right to establish military facilities on them, including the nuclear test site on the Bikini Atoll {24} and the Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Defense Test Site {25} elsewhere in the Marshalls.

This comes in exchange for yearly aid payments {26} from the Office of Insular Affairs, adding another $571 million and yielding total costs of:

$3.6 billion for territories and Pacific island nations.

Speaking of the oceans, at Congress’s instruction, the Pentagon excludes the cost of maintaining naval vessels overseas. But Navy and Marine Corps vessels are essentially floating (and submersible) bases used to maintain a powerful military presence on (and under) the seas. A very conservative estimate for these costs adds another $3.8 billion.

Then there are the costs of Navy prepositioned ships at anchor around the world. Think of them as warehouse-bases at sea, stocked with weaponry, war materiel, and other supplies. And don’t forget Army prepositioned stocks. Together, they come to an estimated $604 million a year. In addition, the Pentagon appears to omit some $861 million for overseas “sealift” and “airlift” and “other mobilization” expenses. All told, the bill grows by:

$5.3 billion for Navy vessels and personnel plus seaborne and airborne assets.

Also strangely missing from the Cost Summary is that little matter of health-care costs. Overseas costs for the Defense Health Program {27} and other benefits for personnel abroad add an estimated $11.7 billion yearly. And then there’s $538 million in military and family housing construction that the Pentagon also appears to overlook in its tally.

So too, we can’t forget about shopping on base, because we the taxpayers are subsidizing those iconic Walmart-like PX (Post Exchange {28}) shopping malls on bases worldwide. Although the military is fond of saying that the PX system pays for itself because it helps fund on-base recreation programs, Pentagon leaders neglect to mention that the PXs get free buildings and land, free utilities, and free transportation of goods to overseas locations. They also operate tax-free.

While there’s no estimate for the value of the buildings, land, and utilities that taxpayers provide, the exchanges reported $267 million in various subsidies for 2011. (Foregone federal taxes might add $30 million or more to that figure.) Add in as well postal subsidies {29} of at least $71 million and you have:

$12.6 billion for health care, military and family housing, shopping and postal subsidies.

Another Pentagon exclusion is rent paid to other countries for the land we garrison. Although a few countries like Japan, Kuwait, and South Korea actually pay the United States to subsidize our garrisons – to the tune of $1.1 billion {30} in 2012 – far more common, according to base expert Kent Calder {31}, “are the cases where the United States pays nations to host bases”.

Given the secretive nature of basing agreements and the complex economic and political trade-offs involved in base negotiations, precise figures are impossible to find. However, Pentagon-funded research {32} indicates that eighteen percent of total foreign military and economic aid goes toward buying base access. That swells our invoice by around $6.3 billion. Payments to Nato of $1.7 billion “for the acquisition and construction of military facilities and installations” and other purposes, brings us to:

$6.9 billion in net “rent” payments and Nato contributions.

Although the OCS must report the costs of all military operations abroad, the Pentagon omits $550 million {33} for counternarcotics operations and $108 million {34} for humanitarian and civic aid. Both have, as a budget document {35} explains about humanitarian aid, helped “maintain a robust overseas presence”, while the military “obtains access to regions important to US interests”. The Pentagon also spent $24 million on environmental projects abroad to monitor and reduce on-base pollution, dispose of hazardous and other waste, and for “initiatives … in support of global basing/operations”. So the bill now grows by:

$682 million for counternarcotics, humanitarian, and environmental programs.

The Pentagon tally of the price of occupying the planet also ignores the costs of secret bases and classified programs overseas. Out of a total Pentagon classified budget of $51 billion {36} for 2012, I conservatively use only the estimated overseas portion of operations and maintenance spending {37}, which adds $2.4 billion. Then there’s the $15.7 billion {38} Military Intelligence Program. Given that US law {39} generally bars the military from engaging in domestic spying, I estimate that half this spending, $7.9 billion, took place overseas.

Next, we have to add in the CIA’s paramilitary {40} budget, funding activities including secret bases in places like Somalia {41}, Libya {42}, and elsewhere in the Middle East {43}, and its drone assassination {44} program, which has grown precipitously since the onset of the war on terror. With thousands dead {45} (including hundreds of civilians), how can we not consider these military costs? In an email, John Pike, director of {46}, told me that “possibly a third” of the CIA’s estimated budget of $10 {47} billion may now go to paramilitary costs, yielding:

$13.6 billion for classified programs, military intelligence, and CIA paramilitary activities.

Last but certainly not least comes the real biggie: the costs {48} of the 550 bases {49} the US built in Afghanistan, as well as the last three months of life for our bases in Iraq, which once numbered 505 {50} before the US pullout from that country (that is, the first three months of fiscal year 2012). While the Pentagon and Congress exclude these costs, that’s like calculating the New York Yankees’ payroll while excluding salaries for each year’s huge free agent signings {51}.

Conservatively following the OCS methodology used for other countries, but including costs for health care, military pay in the base budget, rent, and “other programs”, we add an estimated:

$104.9 billion for bases and military presence in Afghanistan and other war zones.

Having started with the OCS figure of $22.1 billion, the grand total now has reached:

$168 billion ($169,963,153,283 to be exact).

That’s nearly an extra $150 billion. Even if you exclude war costs – and I think the Yankees show why that’s a bad idea – the total still reaches $65.1 billion, or nearly three times the Pentagon’s calculation.

But don’t for a second think that that’s the end of our garrisoning costs. In addition to spending likely hidden in the nooks and crannies of its budget, there are other irregularities in the Pentagon’s accounting. Costs for sixteen countries hosting US bases but left out of the OCS entirely, including Colombia {52}, El Salvador {53}, and Norway {54}, may total more than $350 million. The costs of the military presence in Colombia alone could reach into the tens of millions in the context of more than $8.5 billion in Plan Colombia {55} funding since 2000. The Pentagon also reports costs of less than $5 million each for Yemen {56}, Israel {57}, Uganda {58}, and the Seychelles {59} Islands, which seems unlikely and could add millions more.

When it comes to the general US presence abroad, other costs are too difficult to estimate reliably, including the price of Pentagon offices in the United States, embassies, and other government agencies that support bases and troops overseas. So, too, US training facilities, depots, hospitals, and even cemeteries allow overseas bases to function. Other spending includes currency-exchange costs, attorneys’ fees and damages won in lawsuits against military personnel abroad, short-term “temporary duty assignments”, US-based troops participating in exercises overseas, and perhaps even some of NASA’s military functions, space-based weapons, a percentage of recruiting costs required to staff bases abroad, interest paid on the debt attributable to the past costs of overseas bases, and Veterans Administration (“VA”) costs and other retirement spending for military personnel who served abroad.

Beyond my conservative estimate, the true bill for garrisoning the planet might be closer to $200 billion a year.

“Spillover Costs”

Those, by the way, are just the costs in the US government’s budget. The total economic costs to the US economy are higher still. Consider where the taxpayer-funded salaries of the troops at those bases go when they eat or drink at a local restaurant or bar, shop for clothing, rent a local home, or pay local sales taxes in Germany, Italy, or Japan. These are what economists call “spillover” or “multiplier effects”. When I visited Okinawa in 2010, for example, Marine Corps representatives bragged about how their presence contributes $1.9 billion annually to the local economy through base contracts, jobs, local purchases, and other spending. Although the figures may be overstated, it’s no wonder members of Congress like Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison have called for a new “Build in America” {60} policy to protect “the fiscal health of our nation”.

And the costs are still broader when one considers the trade-offs, or opportunity costs, involved. Military spending creates fewer jobs {61} per million dollars expended than the same million invested in education, health care, or energy efficiency – barely half as many as investing in schools. Even worse, while military spending clearly provides direct benefits to the Lockheed Martins {62} and KBRs {63} of the military-industrial complex, these investments don’t, as economist James Heintz {64} says, boost the “long-run productivity of the rest of the private sector” the way infrastructure investments do.

To adapt a famous line from President Dwight Eisenhower {65}: every base that is built signifies in the final sense a theft. Indeed, think about what Dal Molin’s half a billion dollars in infrastructure could have done if put to civilian uses. Again echoing Ike {66}, the cost {67} of one modern base is this: 260,000 low-income children getting health care for one year or 65,000 going to a year of Head Start or 65,000 veterans receiving VA care for a year.

A Different Kind of “Spillover”

Bases also create a different “spillover” {68} in the financial and non-financial costs host countries bear. In 2004, for example, on top of direct “burden sharing” payments, host countries made in-kind contributions of $4.3 billion {69} to support US bases. In addition to agreeing to spend billions of dollars to move thousands of US Marines and their families from Okinawa to Guam {70}, the Japanese government has paid nearly $1 billion {71} to soundproof civilian homes near US air bases on Okinawa and millions in damages for successful noise pollution lawsuits. Similarly, as base expert Mark Gillem {72} reports, between 1992 and 2003, the Korean and US governments paid $27.3 million in damages because of crimes committed by US troops stationed in Korea. In a single three-year period, US personnel “committed 1,246 criminal acts, from misdemeanors to felonies”.

As these crimes indicate, costs for local communities extend far beyond the economic. Okinawans have recently been outraged by what appears to be another {73} in a long series of rapes committed by US troops. Which is just one example of how, from Japan {74} to Italy {75}, there are what Anita Dancs calls the “costs of rising hostility” over bases. Environmental damage pushes the financial and non-financial toll even higher. The creation of a base on Diego Garcia {76} in the Indian Ocean sent all of the local Chagossian people into exile {77}.

So, too, US troops and their families bear some of those nonfinancial costs due to frequent moves and separation during unaccompanied tours abroad, along with attendant high rates of divorce {78}, domestic violence {79}, substance abuse {80}, sexual assault {81}, and suicide {82}.

“No one, no one likes it”, a stubbly-faced old man told me as I was leaving the construction site. He remembered the Americans arriving in 1955 and now lives within sight of the Dal Molin base. “If it were for the good of the people, okay, but it’s not for the good of the people.”

“Who pays? Who pays?” he asked. “Noi”, he said. We do.

Indeed, from that $170 billion to the costs we can’t quantify, we all do.





















































































David Vine, a Tom Dispatch regular, is assistant professor of anthropology at American University, in Washington, DC. He is the author of Island of Shame: The Secret History of the US Military Base on Diego Garcia (2011). He has written for The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Guardian, and Mother Jones, among other places. He is currently completing a book about the more than 1,000 US military bases located outside the United States. To read a detailed description of the calculations described in this article and view a chart of the costs of the US military presence abroad, visit

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter @TomDispatch and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch book, Nick Turse’s The Changing Face of Empire: Special Ops, Drones, Proxy Fighters, Secret Bases, and Cyberwarfare (2012).

Copyright 2012 David Vine

(c) 2016 TomDispatch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Uncategorized

Leaked Soros Memo …

… Exposes Obama’s Secret TPP Negotiations; Hillary “Flip-Flopping”

by Tyler Durden

Zero Hedge (October 23 2016)

In addition to providing a glimpse into the internal, and often confrontational, dialogue that took place within the Clinton campaign on topics ranging from Hillary’s email server, to coordination and collusion with the media, to the planning how to attack Bernie Sanders, to the fascinating strife and conflicts of interest within the Clinton Foundation and the Clinton Global Initiative, the Podesta leaks have also been instrumental in providing the public with insight into Hillary’s flip-flopping views on the Trans Pacific Partnership (“TPP”). Indeed, as The Wall Street Journal put it recently, a running question through the presidential race has been whether Hillary Clinton is sincere in saying she opposes the twelve-nation Asian trade deal that is one of the Obama administration’s top overseas priorities {1}.

As secretary of state, Mrs Clinton praised the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership, calling it the “gold standard” of trade deals. But that was before she jumped into the presidential race. Organized labor, liberal activists and others want to scuttle TPP, so if Mrs Clinton remained supportive, she risked a political backlash.

This is what the Podesta files have revealed so far: on October 8 2015, Hillary Clinton said she opposed the trade pact, a position that proved helpful in keeping her coalition intact and beating back a primary challenge from Vermont’s liberal senator, Bernie Sanders. That wasn’t an easy call. A new batch of hacked emails illustrates divisions within her staff about how to handle one of the most delicate issues of the race.

Five days before Mrs Clinton’s announcement, her top advisers were divided about what she should do, with some fearing that opposition to the trade pact would look like a blatant “flip-flop”.

On October 3 2015, Clinton advisor Ron Klain wrote Jake Sullivan with the following advice:



She has to be for TPP. She called it the “gold standard” of trade agreements. I think opposing that would be a huge flip flop. She can say that as President she would work to change it. She can say that it can be better. But I think she should support it {2}.



That produced the following reply from Jake Sullivan, the Clinton campaign’s top foreign policy advisor: “I agree with you on TPP but others (including on this email!) feel strongly to the contrary”. The exchange ends with campaign manager Robby Mook noting that labor wouldn’t stand for her endorsing the trade deal.

“TPP would be lethal with labor. We’d loose [sic] Afscme and likely SEIU as well.” As The Wall Street Journal points out, that calculation apparently carried the day.

To be sure, the TPP came up during the last debate in Las Vegas, where Hillary Clinton said the following about the trade deal: “Well, first, let me say, number one, when I saw the final agreement for TPP, I said I was against it. She added that “it didn’t meet my test. I’ve had the same test. Does it create jobs, raise incomes and further our national security? I’m against it now. I’ll be against it after the election. I’ll be against it when I’m president.”

What she really meant is that she had realized that backing her previous stance, and supporting the TPP, would likely cost her millions of union votes. The irony, however, is that if Hillary is elected president, she will almost certainly revert back to some TPP formulation, especially since it is in the best interest of big business.



* * *



Fast forward to today, when thanks to the latest set of Wikileaks released today {3}, we find intimate details involving Obama’s negotiations of the TPP, and learn that none other than George Soros and his Open Society Foundation was keen on being a key influencing factor in the outcome of TPP negotiations regarding at least one country, allegedly the most important one – Malaysia.

Recall that all the TPP fundamentally is, is a treaty that is meant to keep China in check by providing preferential treatment to legacy Chinese trade partners with the US to prevent them from pulling a “Duterte”, and realigning with Beijing. Of these, Malaysia was the most important “link” in the TPP.

In March of 2016, when John Podesta was set to meet with the billionaire philanthropist and hedge fund manager, Soros’ right hand, and his political liaison who sits on the board of the Democracy Alliance, Michael Vachon {4}, told Podesta that Soros would like to talk about the TPP in the context of Malaysia’s “corruption crisis” among other things, as laid out in a memo drafted by John Pang {5}, a senior fellow at the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Singapore, where he works on regional strategic and security issues.

As a reminder, ever since July of 2015, Malaysia has found itself in an intricate web of corruption involving its sovereign wealth fund, 1MDB, which stretches from Goldman Sachs as key enabler of years of fraud and embezzlement (in exchange for hefty fees) reaching all the way to the very top – Malaysia’s Prime Minister, Najib Razak, seen here in December 2014 golfing with president Obama {6}:

Per the memo:



In July 2015, after an expose by The Wall Street Journal, Mr Najib foiled an attempt by the Task Force investigating the sovereign wealth fund 1MDB to charge and detain him for having received almost $700 million diverted from this fund that he controls into his personal bank account. Swiss investigators working on this case estimate that more than $4 billion has been misappropriated through “systematic course of action carried out by means of complex financial structures” … The new Attorney-General has unilaterally cleared Mr Najib of wrongdoing and proposes life-imprisonment for whistle-blowers under the Official Secrets Act and punishment for journalists who refuse to reveal their sources.



The attacks on Obama’s administration begin from the very top of the leaked memo:



… the Obama administration appears to have made the Trans-Pacific Partnership the overriding priority of its engagement with Malaysia. In doing so, the administration has made visible compromises on principle that have set back Malaysia’s difficult transition to democracy. In a region that is home to 240 million Muslims, it has sacrificed the moderate, democratic Muslim agenda to collaborate with a regime riddled with corruption and abuse of power. It has set back the fight against human trafficking by compromising the credibility of its own chief instrument in that struggle.



They continued:



A reckoning of the cost of those compromises puts to rest any notion that the TPP is anything like a “gold standard”, 21st century trade agreement. Instead, it will be a negative chapter in the history of US-Malaysia relationship, not just because of its content but because of the circumstances in which it has been secured in Malaysia. The TPP, if it is finally ratified, will set back reforms much needed by the Malaysian economy and the political system.



As a result, “the administration’s engagement with Prime Minister Najib Razak has damaged US credibility in the region”.

Disturbingly, we find that while The Wall Street Journal has been trying to get to the bottom of the pervasive corruption in Malaysia’s government, said corruption may have been enabled by none other than Obama’s administration:



Malaysia received more TPP carve-outs than any other TPP member country. These carve outs over government procurement, SOE’s and bumiputera preferences constitute an exemption for key domains of the bumiputera policy, an extensive set of racial preferences justified on racial supremacist grounds, through which UMNO exerts control of Malaysia’s huge state sector. It translates this control into political power through kickbacks, patronage, vote buying or direct misappropriation of funds as seen in 1MDB.



In an odd twist of events, liberal billionaire George Soros accuses Obama of supporting racism, corruption, kickbacks, patronage and “vote buying”, just so Obama could assure the passage of his landmark trade deal. Curiously, while in the past Soros has been steadfastly supportive of Obama, in this case the Open Society Foundation openly lashes out at the US president, and goes so far as accusing Obama of being a puppet of Najib, who has significant influence over Obama as “Mr Najib is the only hope that the TPP will be signed”.



History, and tomorrow’s newspapers, may look poorly on the administrations dealings with Najib

The most damaging effect of the Obama administration’s apparent mono-focus on the TPP in its policy towards Malaysia has been the unnecessary leverage this has given Najib with the US administration. The TPP has few friends in Malaysia. It is opposed by the majority of the Malaysian population, by the ruling party and the Opposition. To the US, Mr Najib is the only hope that the TPP will be signed. This gives him leverage at a time when his leadership has crossed the line into open criminality at home and he is under investigation abroad. For Malaysians, the TPP and Mr Obama have come to be identified with Mr Najib’s administration.



As a result, Soros had the following recommendations for Obama (and Podesta, thus Hillary’s administration as Obama was largely a figurehead in march 2016):



Make the TIP Report Independent of Political Designs

The administration’s adoption of the TPP as the cornerstone of its engagement with Malaysia may have led it to miss the opportunity to exercise leadership on democracy and the rule of law. These values have never been more relevant, whether with China’s growing influence or Islamic radicalism in view.

US leadership in Southeast Asia is based on its promotion and underwriting of a rule-based international order. Such leadership, to be credible, needs to also be consistent on matters of fundamental principle.

The United States’ credibility on human trafficking will be but the first casualty of this approach if the Trafficking in Persons (“TIP”) Report is not freed from “political interference”. If the standards or rules it offers on fundamental human rights (and economic freedom, in the case of the TPP) are so transparently self-serving, the US will be seen to have less to offer the region than China, with its ‘win-win’, investment driven formula of engagement.



More importantly, the Soros foundation advised Obama to dissociate from Najib, and thus Malaysia:



Dissociate from Najib … soon

The administration should consider a plan to distance itself from Mr Najib. The open scandal around Najib has spiraled out of control and his position is unsustainable. He is determined to remain in power but can only do so by brute force. If he does “survive”, it will have been by destroying all independent institutions. A focus on the TPP may have lulled the administration into missing the trajectory of this crisis. The administration should understand where the Najib bus is headed, and find a place to get off soon rather than later.



Finally, while this particular hypothetical scenario has yet to play out, should Obama and/or Hillary heed Soros’ advice, buying Malaysian CDS or shorting local stocks may be the appropriate trade here:



If Najib is forced to step down it could be a chaotic, potentially violent process. Najib is likely to use the emergency security powers he has prepared for himself. He may try to divert the challenge by sparking racial conflict as he has done before. There will be a leadership vacuum. Anwar could play a critical role negotiating a peaceful return to constitutional government and preventing civil strife. Mr Anwar could also be instrumental in forming a new government. It is important that the liberal and plural values that he stands for be protected.



The memo raises many questions: just how far does Soros’ influence stretch in determining US foreign policy, if not so much under Obama then certainly with Hillary, with whom he has a far better relationship; another question is if Soros’ accusations are true, then how and why did Obama cross so many ethical and moral lines just to pass a “secret” global trade deal, which so many have voiced reservations against. Finally, while Hillary is against the TPP as of her latest “flip-flop”, will she revert back to her default state once elected president, and if so, just how much leverage will Razaj – and Malaysian special interests – have over US foreign and domestic policy to assure the treaty is implemented?


The full Soros memo is at {7}.









Categories: Uncategorized

Washington’s New Lock-Step March of Folly

Exclusive: Confident in a Hillary Clinton victory, Washington’s foreign policy elite is readying plans for more warfare in Syria and more confrontations with nuclear-armed Russia, an across-the-spectrum “group think” that risks life on the planet

by Robert Parry

Consortium News (October 22 2016)

As polls show Hillary Clinton closing in on victory, Official Washington’s neoconservative (and liberal-hawk) foreign policy establishment is rubbing its hands in anticipation of more war and more strife, including a US military escalation in Syria, a take-down of Iran, and a showdown with nuclear-armed Russia.

What is perhaps most alarming about this new “group think” is that there doesn’t appear to be any significant resistance to the expectation that President Hillary Clinton will unleash these neocon/liberal-hawk forces of intervention that President Barack Obama has somewhat restrained.

Assuming Donald Trump’s defeat – increasingly seen as a foregone conclusion – the Republican leadership would mostly be in sync with Clinton if she adopts a hawkish foreign policy similar to what was pursued by President George W Bush. Meanwhile, most Democrats would be hesitant to challenge their party’s new president.

The only potential option to constrain the hawkish Clinton would be the emergence of a “peace” wing of the Democratic Party, possibly aligned with Republican anti-interventionists. But that possibility remains problematic especially since those two political elements have major policy disagreements on a wide variety of other topics.

There also isn’t an obvious individual for the peace factions to organize around. Senator Bernie Sanders, who mildly criticized Clinton’s advocacy of “regime change” operations during the primary campaign, is 75 years old and isn’t particularly known for his stands on foreign policy issues.

If Trump loses, the bombastic real-estate mogul would likely be a spent political force, possibly retreating into the paranoid “alt-right” world of conspiracy theories. Even now, his dovish objection to confronting Russia has been undermined by his tendency to speak carelessly about other national security topics, such as torture, terrorism and nuclear weapons.

One potential leader of a peace movement would be Representative Tulsi Gabbard (Democrat, Hawaii, a 35-year-old military veteran who is one of the few members of Congress to offer an insightful and courageous critique of the dangers from an interventionist foreign policy. But Gabbard would be putting her promising political career at risk if she challenged a sitting Democratic president, especially early in Clinton’s White House term.

Yet, without a modern-day Eugene McCarthy (the anti-Vietnam War Democrat who took on President Lyndon Johnson in 1968) to rally an anti-war movement from inside the Democratic Party, it is hard to imagine how significant political pressure could be put on a President Hillary Clinton. Virtually the entire mainstream US media (and much of the progressive media) are onboard for a US “regime change” operation in Syria and for getting tough with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Not Thought Through

These “group thinks” on Syria and Russia, like previous ones on Iraq and Libya, have not been thought through, but are driven instead by emotional appeals – photos of wounded children in Syria and animosity toward Putin for not wearing a shirt and not bowing to US global supremacy. As with Iraq in 2003 and Libya in 2011, there is little consideration about what might follow a successful “regime change” scenario in Syria or Russia.

In Syria, a “no-fly zone” destroying Syria’s air force and air defenses could pave the way for a victory by Al Qaeda’s recently renamed Nusra Front and/or Al Qaeda’s spinoff, the Islamic State. How letting major terrorist groups control Damascus would be good for either the Syrian people or the United States gets barely mentioned.

The dreamy thinking is that somehow the hard-to-find “moderate” rebels – sometimes called the “unicorns” – would prevail, even though they have existed mostly as cut-outs and conduits so Al Qaeda and its allies can secure advanced US weapons to use for killing Syrian soldiers.

Yet, even more dangerous is the already-launched destabilization campaign against nuclear-armed Russia, a policy that may feel-good because we’re taught to despise Vladimir Putin. But this latest neocon/liberal-hawk “regime change” scheme – even if it somehow were “successful” – is not likely to install in the Kremlin one of the US-favored “liberals” who would allow the resumption of the 1990s-era plundering of Russia’s wealth.

Far more likely, an angry Russian population would go for a much-harder-line nationalist than Putin, someone who might see nuclear weapons as the only way to protect Mother Russia from another raping by the West. It’s not the cold-blooded Putin who should scare Americans, but the hot-headed guy next in line.

But none of these downsides – not even the existential downside of nuclear annihilation – is allowed to be discussed among Official Washington’s foreign policy elites. It’s all about giving Bashar al-Assad the “Gaddafi treatment” in Syria, punishing Iran even if that might cause its leaders to renounce the nuclear-arms agreement, and muscling Nato forces up to Russia’s borders and making the Russian economy scream.

And, behind these policies are some of the most skilled propagandists in the world. They are playing much of the US population – and surely the US media – like a fiddle.

Lock-Step Consensus

The propaganda campaign is driven by a consensus among the major think tanks of Official Washington, where there is near universal support for Hillary Clinton, not because they all particularly like her, but because she has signaled a return to neocon/liberal-hawk strategies.

As Greg Jaffe wrote for the neocon-dominated Washington Post on Friday,



In the rarefied world of the Washington foreign policy establishment, President Obama’s departure from the White House – and the possible return of a more conventional and hawkish Hillary Clinton – is being met with quiet relief.

The Republicans and Democrats who make up the foreign policy elite are laying the groundwork for a more assertive American foreign policy, via a flurry of reports shaped by officials who are likely to play senior roles in a potential Clinton White House.

It is not unusual for Washington’s establishment to launch major studies in the final months of an administration to correct the perceived mistakes of a president or influence his successor. But the bipartisan nature of the recent recommendations, coming at a time when the country has never been more polarized, reflects a remarkable consensus among the foreign policy elite.

This consensus is driven by a broad-based backlash against a president who has repeatedly stressed the dangers of overreach and the need for restraint, especially in the Middle East … Taken together, the studies and reports call for more-aggressive American action to constrain Iran, rein in the chaos in the Middle East and check Russia in Europe.



One of the lead organizations revving up these military adventures and also counting on a big boost in military spending under President Clinton-45 is the Atlantic Council, a think tank associated with Nato that has been pushing for a major confrontation with nuclear-armed Russia.

Jaffe quotes former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who is leading the Atlantic Council’s bipartisan Mideast team as saying about Syria: “The immediate thing is to do something to alleviate the horrors that are being visited on the population … We do think there needs to be more American action – not ground forces but some additional help in terms of the military aspect. (This is same “humanitarian” Albright who – in responding to a United Nations report that US economic sanctions on Iraq in the 1990s had killed a half million Iraqi children – coldly said, “we think the price is worth it”.)

One of Albright’s partners on the Atlantic Council’s report, Bush’s last National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley, added that if Assad continues to bomb civilians, the United States should strongly consider “using standoff weapons, like cruise missiles, to neutralize his air force so that he cannot fly”.

The plans call for “safe zones” where Syrian rebels can base themselves behind US military protection, allowing them to strike Syrian government forces but preventing the Syrian government from striking back. Little attention is paid to the fact that the so-called “moderate” rebels have refused to separate themselves from Al Qaeda’s forces who are in command of the rebel movement in east Aleppo and other urban areas.

As journalist/historian Gareth Porter has written:



Information from a wide range of sources, including some of those the United States has been explicitly supporting, makes it clear that every armed anti-Assad organization unit in those provinces [of Idlib and Aleppo] is engaged in a military structure controlled by [Al Qaeda’s] Nusra militants. All of these rebel groups fight alongside the Nusra Front and coordinate their military activities with it …

At least since 2014 the Obama administration has armed a number of Syrian rebel groups even though it knew the groups were coordinating closely with the Nusra Front, which was simultaneously getting arms from Turkey and Qatar.



Ignoring the Masses

It also doesn’t seem to matter to these elites that many American commoners are fed up with these costly and bloody “regime change” schemes. As Hadley told the Post‘s Jaffe, “Everyone has kind of given up on the Middle East. We have been at it for fifteen years, and a lot of Americans think it is hopeless … We think it is not.”

But it is not just the Republican neocons and old Democratic hawks who are determined to whip the American people into line behind more war. As Jaffe wrote, “A similar sentiment animates the left-leaning Center for American Progress’s report, which calls for more military action to counter Iranian aggression, more dialogue with the United States’ Arab allies and more support for economic and human rights reform in the region”.

These “liberal hawks” are enthused that now almost the entire foreign policy elite of Official Washington is singing from the same sheet of martial music. There is none of the discord that surrounded Bush’s war in Iraq last decade.

As Brian Katulis, a senior Middle East analyst at the Center for American Progress, said, “The dynamic is totally different from what I saw a decade ago”. He added that the current focus from all sides is on rebuilding a more muscular and more “centrist internationalism”.

In other words, the Iraq War “group think” that enveloped Official Washington before that catastrophe wasn’t total enough. Now, there is almost a totalitarian feel about the way the foreign policy elites, coordinating with the major US news media, are marching the American people toward possibly even worse disasters.

No serious dissent is allowed; no contrarian thoughts expressed; no thinking through where the schemes might end up – unless you want to be marginalized as an Assad “apologist” or a Putin “puppet”. And right now, there doesn’t seem to be any practical way to stop this new march of folly.


Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. His latest book is America’s Stolen Narrative (2012).

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Nato Continues to Prepare for War with Russia

by Peter Korzun

Strategic Culture Foundation (October 24 2016) 

Zero Hedge (October 24 2016)


Nato uses any pretext to accuse Russia of harboring aggressive intentions. It has raised ballyhoo over the recent deployment {1} of Iskander short-range surface-to-surface ballistic missiles to the Kaliningrad region.

Time and time again, the alliance reaffirms its bogus Russia narrative. “We see more assertive and stronger Russia that is willing to use force”, concluded Nato General Secretary Jens Stoltenberg speaking at the round table in Passau, Bavaria on October 10 {2}.

At the same time, Nato is pushing ahead with its military “Schengen zone” {3} in Europe.

“We are working to ensure that each individual soldier will not require a decision at the political level to cross the border”, said {4} Estonian Defense Minister Hannes Hanso.

The idea is to do away with travel restrictions on the movement of Nato forces troops and equipment across Europe. There will be no need to ask for permissions to move forces across national borders. It will undermine the sovereignty of member states but facilitate the cross-continent operations instead. The Baltic States and Poland are especially active in promoting the plan. The restrictions in place hinder rapid movement of the 5,000 strong “Very High Readiness Joint Task Force”.

Besides being the first response tool, it could be used for preventing Article 4 situations, such as subterfuge, civil unrest or border infractions, from escalating into armed conflict. The troops can move freely in time of war, but introducing a Nato Schengen zone is needed for concentrating forces in forward areas in preparation for an attack across the Russian border. The formation of the much larger forty thousand strong Nato Response Force (“NRF”) is on the way.

Meanwhile, the US and Norwegian militaries are discussing the possibility of deploying US troops in Norway – a country which has a 200 kilometer long common border with Russia. The deployment of US servicemen would be part of a rotating arrangement in the country that would fulfil a “long-standing US wish”. Norwegian newspaper Adresseavisen reported {5} on October 10 that 300 combat US Marines could soon be in place at the Værnes military base near Trondheim, about 1,000 kilometres from the Russian-Norwegian frontier.

The air station also serves as part of Marine Corps Prepositioning Program-Norway, a program that allows the Corps to store thousands of vehicles and other major pieces of equipment in temperature-controlled caves ready for combat contingency.

Several defence sources told the newspaper that the plans to put US troops at the military base have been underway for some time. According to, the information that the plans are underway was also confirmed {6} by American Major General Niel E Nelson, the commander of Marine Corps Forces Europe and Africa.

300 Marines can be easily reinforced. The only purpose for the deployment is preparation for an attack against Russia. After all, the Marines Corps is the first strike force. And it’s not Russian Marines being deployed near US national borders, but US Marines deployed in the proximity of Russian borders. The provocative move is taking place at the time the Russia-Nato relationship is at the lowest ebb.

In February, it was revealed {7} that US Marines were using Cold War era Norwegian caves to store new tanks, artillery and other military equipment to ramp up their presence near the Russia-Nato border.

The military began using the caves to store military equipment in 1981. With the Cold War over, the costs of maintaining the caves were transferred to Norway. The cave complex is back in active use now holding enough equipment to support some 15,000 Marines.

According to Heather Conley, the director of the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ Europe Program, Northern Europe is now being viewed as a “theatre of operations”.

These steps are taken against the background of the already highlighted plans {8} to boost Nato’s presence and intensify its military activities in the proximity of Russia’s borders.

The war preparations are taking place at the time Germany – the European economic giant – has announced it wants a more assertive role in European defense and plans to significantly boost its defense expenditure.

German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen noted that the German Finance Ministry has accepted to increase defense spending by to a total of ten billion euros by 2020 for the procurement of equipment and personnel. “Germany is ready to engage … to take more responsibility …This is the right path, but it will require an enormous commitment of time and money”, she stressed {9} addressing a biennial gathering of 200 high-ranking military officials in Berlin on October 17.

The alliance is trying to whip up tensions in Europe to reinforce its relevance in the ever changing world. It needs a fictional enemy to keep it together. Without attracting much public attention, Nato is actively involved in military preparations in the proximity of Russia’s borders. Neither the plans for the military “Schengen zone”, nor the deployment of US Marines in Norway, nor Germany beefing up its combat potential have been on the radar screen of Western media.

One provocation follows another against the endless drumbeat of Western media reports about “Russian aggression”. The war preparations greatly reduce European security and the chances for revival of constructive dialogue between Russia and Nato – something Russia has been calling for so many years. Instead, the bloc is doing its best to provoke an arms race with unpredictable results.











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Slouching Towards Election Day

by James Howard Kunstler

Clusterfuck Nation Blog (October 24 2016)

It’s getting hard to give a shit about this election, though you might still care about this country. The damage has been done to the two long-reigning political parties and perhaps that’s a good thing. They deserved to be dragged into the gutter and now they can either go through a severe rehab or be replaced by as-yet-unformed coalitions of reality-based interests.

Trump did a greater disservice all-in-all to the faction he supposedly represented. Their grievances about a grift-maximized political economy were genuine, and Trump managed to make them look like a claque of sinister clowns. This cartoon of a rich kid with no internal boundaries was unable to articulate their legitimate complaints. His behavior during the so-called debates verged on psychotic. If Trump loses, I will essay to guess that his followers’ next step will be some kind of violence. For the moment, pathetic as it is, Trump was their last best hope.

I’m more comfortable about Hillary – though I won’t vote for her – because it will be salutary for the ruling establishment to unravel with her in charge of it. That way, the right people will be blamed for the mismanagement of our national affairs. This gang of elites needs to be circulated out of power the hard way, under the burden of their own obvious perfidy, with no one else to point their fingers at. Her election will sharpen awareness of the criminal conduct in our financial practices and the neglect of regulation that marked the eight years of Obama’s appointees at the Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The “tell” in these late stages of the campaign has been the demonization of Russia – a way more idiotic exercise than the McCarthyite Cold War hysteria of the early 1950s, since there is no longer any ideological conflict between us and all the evidence indicates that the current state of bad relations is America’s fault, in particular our sponsorship of the state failure in Ukraine and our avid deployment of Nato forces in war games on Russia’s border. Hillary has had the full force of the foreign affairs establishment behind her in this war-drum-banging effort, yet they have not been able to produce any evidence, for instance, in their claim that Russia is behind the Wikileaks hack of Hillary’s email. They apparently subscribe to the Joseph Goebbels theory of propoganda: if you’re going to lie, make sure it’s a whopper, and then repeat it incessantly.

The media has been on-board with all this. The New York Times especially has acted as the hired amplifier for the establishment lies – such a difference from the same newspaper’s role in the Vietnam War ruckus of yesteryear. Today (Monday) they ran an astounding editorial “explaining” the tactical necessity of Hillary’s dishonesty: “In politics, hypocrisy and doublespeak are tools”, The Times editorial board wrote. Oh, well, that’s reassuring. Welcome to the George Orwell Theme Park of Democracy.

Of course neither Trump nor Hillary show any signs of understanding the real problems afflicting the USA. They don’t recognize the basic energy equation that has made it impossible for industrial economies to keep growing, or the deformities in banking and finance that result from official efforts to overcome these implacable conditions, namely, the piling up of ever-greater debt to “solve” the problem of over-indebtedness.

The beginning of the way out of this quandary will be recognition that the federal government is the greatest obstacle for America making the necessary adjustments to a world that has changed. If Trump got elected, I’m convinced that he would be removed from office by a military coup inside of a year, which would be an epic smash-up of our political machinery per se, comparable to the period 44 BCE in Rome, when the republic crashed. Hillary would bring a more measured discredit to the system with the chance that our institutions might be rehabilitated – with the cherry-on-top being Hillary’s eventual impeachment for lying, a fate that her husband and the late Richard Nixon both wiggled out of one way or another.


James Howard Kunstler is the author of The Long Emergency (2006), Too Much Magic (2012), The Geography of Nowhere (1994), the World Made By Hand (2009) novels, and more than a dozen other books. He lives in Washington County, New York.

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China Mocks America’s “Declining Global Influence”

Slams US Attempts at “Destabilizing Peace”

by Tyler Durden

Zero Hedge (October 23 2016)

While the US is pondering how to undo Duterte’s dramatic reversal in policy, when last week the Philippines president announced he would align himself with China while abandoning his country’s sixty plus year strategic alliance with Washington, Beijing is already thinking one step ahead, specifically as pertain to China’s claims over the South China Sea, where the Philippines had been one of the biggest hurdles to Beijing’s territorial claims: claims which after last week have taken a far back seat as Duterte seeks to rebuild from scratch the country’s new regional policy.

Which explains why overnight, in an op-ed in the official Chinese mouthpiece The People’s Daily, China asserted it would never allow the US to run amok in South China Sea waters, after a US Navy guided-missile destroyer, the USS Decatur, sailed through the waters of the Xisha Islands on Friday without the Chinese approval.

What the US did, driven by its hegemonic mentality, cannot increase its influence in Asia-Pacific region, the article said, adding that such acts to stir up enmity and make troubles [that] will only result in the accelerated decline of its global influence.

“The Chinese government resolutely opposes such provocative behavior and takes a series of effective counter-measures”, said the commentary under the byline of Zhongsheng, adding that “Washington has to realize that it is rightly this hegemonic mentality that has resulted in its declining global influence and inability to provide public goods with positive energy. It also has to admit that the era when one country can dominate an alliance network by creating tensions with lies will never come back.”

The attack on all things American continued:



Over the past years, in a bid to cement its maritime hegemony, the US has been destabilizing regional peace and stability by meddling in the South China Sea, challenging China and alienating ties between China and the Philippines.

Washington has not realized that those tricks cannot overturn the regional trend of peaceful development. As the Philippines once appealed, “We can’t be US’s ‘little brown brother’ forever”. Its choice to adjust diplomatic policies and reinforce cooperation with China also proves that an unjust cause committed to by the US finds little support.

What’s more, the US should not bear any fantasy in terms of the South China Sea issue as this is not its first head-to-head game with China. China has a rock-solid determination to safeguard its sovereignty and territorial integrity. China will not ask for anything not belonging to itself, but it will fight for every inch of its territory within its sovereignty.



It appears that now that China has a newly-found ally in the face of the Philippines, its territorial ambitions in the South China Sea will only grow, even as the US has repeatedly stated it would not concede any of its own counter-aspirations involving this critical for global trade region.

* * *

Here is how the Global Times, the nationalistic tabloid sister publication to the People’s Daily, translated the article:



China will never allow US to run amok in South China Sea: People’s Daily

A US Navy guided-missile destroyer, the USS Decatur, sailed through Xisha Island waters, part of the South China Sea as Chinese territorial waters, on Friday without the approval of Chinese authorities. The Chinese government resolutely opposes such provocative behavior and will take a series of effective counter-measures.

In the statement of the Chinese government on the territorial sea baseline issued in May 1996, China clarified the baseline of the Xisha Islands. The Law of the People’s Republic of China on the Territorial Sea and the Contiguous Zone and other international laws also stipulates that all foreign warships need to gain approval from the Chinese government before entering Chinese waters.

The illegal entry of US warships into Chinese waters without permission seriously violates China’s sovereignty and security interests, breaches both Chinese and international laws as well, and poses threats to peace, security as well as order in the relevant waters.

What the US did aims to encroach upon the sovereignty, security and maritime interests of regional countries in the so-called name of a “freedom-of-navigation operation”. But such provocative acts once again expose the negative energy of its “Rebalance to Asia” strategy, and at the same time verify the US role as a real trouble-maker in the South China Sea.

The so-called patrol launched by the US this time came just as China and the Philippines, a country immediately concerned with the South China Sea issue, were restoring their ties. During Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s state visit to China, the two countries inked a series of cooperation agreements.

This US provocation in Chinese territorial waters, at a time when the improvement of ties between China and relevant countries is pulling the South China Sea issue to a encouraging solution, proves that the US has been destabilizing the South China Sea by playing up tensions.

By launching the so-called patrols, the superpower is telling the world that it can tolerate neither a tranquil South China Sea, nor a peaceful and stable Asia-Pacific. Since it cannot find a puppet troublemaker any longer, the exasperated Washington has to create a disturbance by itself.

President Duterte pointed out in a speech that “the US feels a little anxious over China’s sound ties with the Philippines”, and his remarks revealed the complicated psychology of the US. Its peremptory provocation, as a matter of fact, can be regarded as a way to release its depression and an inertia to maintain its hegemony.

Washington has to realize that it is rightly this hegemonic mentality that has resulted in its declining global influence and inability to provide public goods with positive energy. It also has to admit that the era when one country can dominate an alliance network by creating tensions with lies will never come back.

No one wants to weaken the US influence in the Asia-Pacific region, but such influence must be based on a positive dedication to common development of the whole region. Its outdated hegemonic mentality is by no means accepted by regional countries who aspire for peace, cooperation and shared progress.

It is well-known that “freedom-of-navigation”, often cited by the US as a pretext, is actually a falsehood to allow the country to pursue “absolute freedom” of its own security. But the US should bear in mind the ultimate consequences of seeking absolute security as the country has paid enough bitter prices for its arrogance and ignorance.

The arbitrary decision will certainly bring the country to deadlock, and such a stubborn country may obtain some hard power, but never soft power and smart power.

If the US really wants to be a world power, it can never resort to guns, firearms, separation or fishing in troubled waters. Efforts to expand interests can be shared by all countries. Highfalutin words but obstinate and aggressive deeds will win no respect and trust from other countries.

Over the past years, in a bid to cement its maritime hegemony, the US has been destabilizing regional peace and stability by meddling in the South China Sea, challenging China and alienating ties between China and the Philippines.

Washington has not realized that those tricks cannot overturn the regional trend of peaceful development. As the Philippines once appealed, “We can’t be US’s ‘little brown brother’ forever”. Its choice to adjust diplomatic policies and reinforce cooperation with China also proves that an unjust cause committed to by the US finds little support.

What’s more, the US should not bear any fantasy in terms of the South China Sea issue as this is not its first head-to-head game with China. China has a rock-solid determination to safeguard its sovereignty and territorial integrity. China will not ask for anything not belonging to itself, but it will fight for every inch of its territory within its sovereignty.

Chinese President Xi Jinping, at the gathering commemorating the eightieth anniversary of the conclusion of the Long March (1934~1936), urged the entire military to remain vigilant and be aware of its responsibilities, stressing that the modernization of national defense and armed forces must advance in a bid to safeguard the country’s national sovereignty, security and development interests.

The US consolidation of hegemony with military actions will only highlight China’s necessity to strengthen defense, and activate China’s resolution to improve its capability to safeguard its own interests.

The Chinese army will definitely safeguard China’s national sovereignty and security by stepping up patrols based on demand and optimizing its defensive capabilities. China will never allow the US to run amok in the South China Sea, an issue concerning principles.

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The Aleppo / Mosul Riddle

by Pepe Escobar

Strategic Culture Founation (October 20 2016)

CounterPunch (October 21 2016)

There’s no question Baghdad needs to take back Mosul from ISIS/ISIL/Daesh. It could not do it before. In theory, the time is now.

The real question is the conflicting motivations of the large “who’s who” doing it; the Iraqi Army’s 9th Division; the Kurdish Peshmerga, under the baton of wily, corrupt opportunist Barzani; Sunni tribal lords; tens of thousands of Shi’ite militias from southern Iraq; operational “support” from US Special Forces; “targeted” bombing by the US Air Force; and lurking in the background, Turkish Special Forces and air power.

Now that’s a certified recipe for trouble.

Much like Aleppo, Mosul is – literally – the stuff of legend {1}. The successor of ancient Nineveh, settled 8000 years ago; former capital of the Assyrian Empire under Sennacherib {2}in the 7th century BC; conquered by Babylon in the 6th century BC; a thousand years later, annexed to the Muslim empire and ruled by the Umayyads and the Abbasids; the key hub, from the 11th to the 12th century, of the Atabegs medieval state; a key Ottoman hub in a 16th century post-Silk Road spanning the Indian Ocean all the way to the Persian Gulf, the Tigris valley, Aleppo and Tripoli in the Mediterranean.

After World War One, everyone craved Mosul – from Turkey to France. But it was the Brits who managed to dupe France into letting Mosul be annexed to the British Empire’s brand new colony: Iraq. Then came the long Arab nationalist Ba’ath party domination. And afterwards, Shock and Awe and hell; the US invasion and occupation; the tumultuous Shi’ite-majority government of Nouri al-Maliki in Baghdad; and the ISIS/ISIL/Daesh takeover in the summer of 2014.

Mosul’s historic parallels could not but have a special flavor. That 11th/12th century medieval state happened to have roughly the same borders of Daesh’s phony “Caliphate” – incorporating both Aleppo and Mosul. In 2004, Mosul was de facto ruled by disgraced, failed “presidential material” General David Petraeus. Ten years later, after Petraeus’s phony “surge”, Mosul was ruled by a phony Caliphate born in a US prison near the Kuwaiti border.

Since then, hundreds of thousands of residents fled Mosul. The population may be as much as halved compared to the original two million. That’s a mighty lot to be properly “liberated”.

Aleppo “Falls”

The hegemonic narrative about the ongoing Battle of (East) Aleppo is that an “axis of evil” {3} (as coined by Hillary Clinton) of Russia, Iran and “the Syrian regime” is relentlessly bombing innocent civilians and “moderate rebels” while causing a horrendous humanitarian crisis.

In fact, the absolute majority of these several thousand-strong “moderate rebels” is in fact incorporated and/or affiliated with Jabhat Fatah al-Sham (Conquest of Syria Front), which happens to be none other than Jabhat al-Nusra, aka al-Qaeda in Syria, alongside a smatter of other jihadi groups such as Ahrar al-Sham. Al-Nusra’s goals – and who supports them – are fully documented {4}.

Meanwhile, few civilians remain trapped in eastern Aleppo – arguably no more than 30,000 or 40,000 out of an initial population of 300,000.

And that brings us to the crux of the matter explaining the Pentagon sabotage of the Russia-US ceasefire; those fits of rage by Samantha Batshit Crazy Power; the non-stop spin that Russia is committing “war crimes”.

If Damascus controls, apart from the capital, Aleppo, Homs, Hama and Latakia, it controls the Syria that matters: seventy percent of the population and all the important industrial/business centers. It’s practically game over. The rest is a rural, nearly empty back of beyond.

For the headless chicken school of foreign policy currently practiced by the lame duck Obama administration, the ceasefire was a means to buy time and rearm what the Beltway describes as “moderate rebels”. Yet even that was too much for the Pentagon, which faces a determined Syria/Iran/Russia alliance fighting all declinations of demented Salafi-jihadis, whatever their terminology, and committed to keep a unitary Syria.

So reconquering the whole of Aleppo has to be the top priority for Damascus, Tehran and Moscow. The Syrian Arab Army (“SAA”) will never have enough military to reconquer the rural, ultra hardcore Sunni back of beyond. Damascus may also never reconquer the Kurdish northeast, the embryonic Rojava; after all the YPG is directly backed by the Pentagon. Whether an independent Rojava will ever see the light of day is an interminable future issue to be solved.

The SAA, once again, is tremendously overextended. Thus, the method to reconquer East Aleppo is indeed hardcore. There is a humanitarian crisis. There is collateral damage. And this is only the beginning. Because sooner or later the SAA, supported by Hezbollah and Iraqi Shi’ite militias, will have to reconquer East Aleppo with boots on the ground as well – supported by Russian fighter jets.

The heart of the matter is that the former “Free Syrian Army”, absorbed by al-Qaeda in Syria and other Salafi-jihadis, is about to lose East Aleppo. Regime change and/or “Assad must go” – the military way – in Damascus is now impossible. Thus the utter desperation exhibited by the Pentagon’s Ash “Empire of Whining” Carter, neocon cells implanted all across lame duck Team Obama, and their hordes of media shills.

Enter Plan B; the Battle of Mosul.

Fallujah remixed?

The Pentagon plan is deceptively simple; erase any signs of Damascus and the SAA east of Palmyra. And this is where the Battle of Mosul converges with the recent Pentagon attack on Deir Ezzor. Even if we have an offensive in the next few months against Raqqa – by the YPG Kurds or even by Turkish forces – we still have a “Salafist principality” from eastern Syria to western Iraq all mapped up, exactly as the Defense Intelligence Agency (“DIA”) was planning (dreaming?) in 2012.

London-based Syrian historian Nizar Nayouf, as well as unnamed diplomatic sources, have confirmed that Washington and Riyadh closed a deal to let thousands of phony Caliphate jihadis escape Mosul from the west, as long as they head straight to Syria. A look at the battle map tells us that Mosul is encircled from all directions, except west.

But what about Sultan Erdogan in all this? He’s been spinning that Turkish Special Forces will enter Mosul just as they entered Jarablus in the Turkish-Syrian border; without firing a shot, when the city will be cleaned of jihadis.

Meanwhile, Ankara is preparing its spectacular entrance in the battlefield {6}, with Erdogan in full regalia shooting at random. For him, “Baghdad” is no more than “an administrator of an army composed of Shi’ites”; and the YPG Kurds “will be removed from the Syrian town of Manbij” after the Mosul operation. Not to mention that Ankara and Washington are actively discussing the offensive against Raqqa, as Erdogan has not abandoned his dream of a “safe zone” of 5,000 kilometers in northern Syria.

In a nutshell; for Erdogan, Mosul is a sideshow. His priorities remain a fractured, fragmented Syria, “safe zone” included; and to smash the YPG Kurds (while working side by side with the Peshmerga in Iraq).

As far as the US Plan B is concerned, Hezbollah’s Sheikh Nasrallah has clearly seen through the whole scheme {7}; “The Americans intend to repeat the Fallujah plot when they opened a way for ISIL to escape towards eastern Syria before the Iraqi warplanes targeted the terrorists’ convoy”. He added that “the Iraqi army and popular forces” must defeat ISIS/ISIL/Daesh in Mosul; otherwise, they will have to chase them out across eastern Syria.

It’s also no wonder that Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has also clearly seen The Big Picture:



As far as I know, the city is not fully encircled. I hope it’s because they simply couldn’t do it, not because they wouldn’t do it. But this corridor poses a risk that Islamic State fighters could flee from Mosul and go to Syria.



It’s clear Moscow won’t sit idly by if that’s the case:



I hope the US-led coalition, which is actively engaged in the operation to take Mosul, will take it into account.



Of course Mosul – even more than Aleppo – poses a serious humanitarian question.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (“ICRC”) estimates as many as one million people may be affected. Lavrov goes straight to the point when he insists



… neither Iraq nor its neighbors currently have the capacity to accommodate such a large number of refugees, and this should have been a factor in the planning of the Mosul operation.



It may not have been. After all, for the “US-led” (from behind?) coalition, the number one priority is to ensure the phony Caliphate survives, somewhere in eastern Syria. Over fifteen years after 9/11, the song remains the same, with the war on terra the perennial gift that keeps on giving.









The Aleppo / Mosul Riddle

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